Michael Williams, principal Pakuranga College, discusses some of the key questions they worked through as they developed their digital strategy. For them it was important that everyone understood the "why" behind the implementation of BYOD. He explains, "for us the why is solely around, it’s about teaching and learning."
One of the things that’s really important in a school planning their digital strategy whether they’re thinking about going into BYOD is to think the why question. For us the why is solely around, it’s about teaching and learning. It’s not about digital devices and BYOD. There needs to be a valid reason around learning because when you have that basis you’ll get good outcomes. If you’re simply doing it because you should be using some laptops then they’ll expire on you. We started as a school thinking, how do you use this technology? What does that look like? What does it mean for learning? So the way that we went through it is we did trials. We went to our community and said we’re looking at having a digital class or two, would you like your year 9 students to be in it and in the first year we had two out of 14 classes at year 9 in the school. We told the parents if we’ve got too many we would ballot places. We were open and we said we were going to trial this. We have no idea whether it will help learning. In fact we give you a caveat now, this will not improve learning. There’s no evidence to prove it but we think we need to look into it. So, we started with two classes, small group of teachers, looked at the type of device we would use. That first event we had them all on the same device, a little netbook when they came in and we started looking at what it looked like. We specially chose the teachers to work with those classes. We did a lot of intensive PD with them. We went out looking a what was happening both nationally and internationally to see how that evolved and what it looked like and we experimented and we tried and we tried things in the classroom. The second year, I think we had three classes. Again a small controlled group of staff. We could do a lot of work with a lot of trialing and erroring. It then grew from there, ironically it didn’t quite go as we’d planned. I assumed at one stage we would grow and it would just keep getting bigger and bigger then we’d almost be effectively everyone with a device. Several things happened, economic downturn, some mechanics of scaling internally meant it didn’t happen. We stalled at about half of our students being in digital classes and we were there for a couple of years. And it was an uncomfortable space because the number of teachers involved was quite big so we couldn’t give them personalised support and help and so the quality of what was happening, I think, wasn’t as good as in the early years or certainly the development of it wasn’t as good. We made the decision that if we were going to push through to the next level we had to have all of the students with a device. So all of the teachers at year 9 were all having to work in a digital environment. But that took us five years to get to that point. Even now we’re still learning heavily. We did one year level at a time. Year 9, currently we’re year 9 and 10, next year we’ll be year 9, 10, and 11 and we’re still learning.